Strength Training with the BOSU® Balance Trainer
Rather than focusing on max lifts, the focus when strength training with the BOSU® Balance Trainer is on muscular endurance and integrated strength.
Muscular endurance can be defined as “the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to sustain repeated contractions against a resistance for an extended period of time”.
Integrated strength training utilizes movement patterns that work both upper body, lower body and core muscles simultaneously.
Sometimes the purpose isn’t about picking up a heavy piece of resistance training equipment, but is more about using just enough load to try to pull the body off center as I’ll explain in the core exercise.
Let’s explore how we can effectively strength train with the BOSU® Balance Trainer, using familiar upper body, lower body, and core exercises.
Upper Body – Push-Up and Chest Press
The Balance Trainer is A LOT softer than the floor! When you do bent-knee push-ups, it can be tough on the knees, even with a mat. When you kneel on the dome side of the Balance Trainer, it’s much kinder on your knees. And, when kneeling on the dome side, you are on an unstable surface so demands for balance and core stabilization will increase.
I love to layer in plyometric movements to ignite fast twitch muscle fibers in a strength training routine. Using the dome side of the Balance Trainer for a plyo push-up requires you to react quickly.
Think outside the box and use the platform side of the Balance Trainer as a weight bench. Flip it over so that the dome is touching the floor and the platform side is facing up. Sit on the floor with the Balance Trainer behind you. Tilt it so that the base gently touches your low back. Lean back, placing your head, neck, and shoulders on the platform then lift your hips into a bridge. Now you can grab dumbbells or a kettle bell and perform exercises such as chest press, chest fly and triceps extensions, to name a few. Regardless of weight selection, this integrates abs, glutes and hamstrings in addition to the chosen upper body exercise, as the body fights to maintain the bridge while trying to keep the Balance Trainer from titling side to side.
Give this integrated upper body complex a try:
- Platform Side Up (PSU) Single Arm Chest Press – 15 Right then 15 Left
- Push-Ups 10 – 12 kneeling on the dome or 5 Plyo Push-Ups
- Rest 1 minute. Perform 2 – 5 sets
Lower Body – Stationary Lunge
The Balance Trainer can be deceptively challenging for compound movements such as lunges.
The elevation of the front leg on the dome in a lunge provides lots of glute activation (as lunging on a box or step would), but the unstable surface delivers tons of biofeedback while the body tries to achieve homeostasis. Add a shoulder press and/or lateral raise to your lunge to create a compound movement. Trust me, you won’t need a heavy weight here to elevate the heart rate and heat up the core in addition to the lower body challenges in the lunge. Explore both range of motion and the amount of time under tension for additional strength benefits.
Here’s another integrated strength series for you to try:
- Stationary Lunge on the right side with a Single Arm Shoulder Press 15 reps
- Perform a half range of motion Stationary Lunge, staying on the right side, with a Single Arm Front Raise 15 reps
- Pulse for 15 reps, still on the right side, with arm by your side
- Hold the lunge at your deepest, safest range of motion (Yes! STILL on the right) and perform 15 Single Arm Lateral Raises
- If you’d like a burnout or element of cardio, perform 15 seconds of a Jump Lunge or a Split Squat
- Switch legs and repeat
Core – Dead Bug
Dead Bug is about core stabilization. This may be performed with the BOSU® Balance Trainer alone, or a light dumbbell may be added in one hand to be used to challenge center of gravity.
Here is an integrated core complex that features the Dead Bug:
- Sit on the front third of the Balance Trainer, dome side up
- Lean back to a supine position, with the low back at the apex of the dome
- Lift one foot off the floor to a bent knee position, knee over your hip
- To progress, lift the other leg to the same position
- To increase the balance challenge, lift one or both arms so that the wrists are aligned over the shoulders
- Stabilize on your right side and begin to move the right arm to 3 o’clock
- Hold and resist the urge to rotate
- Perform 5 reps right and then 5 reps left
- To further progress, place the light dumbbell in one hand as you move your hand away from and back to the midpoint of the body while in dead bug position
Incorporating functional, muscular endurance training into your strength training routines help make every day activities easier to perform and can help you sustain these activities for longer periods of time!
Elizabeth Lenart, M.Ed. is a BOSU® Master Trainer and Program Director for Balletone. She is the founder of Elizabeth Lenart Fitness in Chicopee, Massachusetts, and functions as a consultant, program creator, instructor and mentor to other fitness professionals. She also appears as a Fitness Expert on Mass Appeal.
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